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07/30/17 - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

The parable of the dragnet teaches us a crucial lesson about the Church: It is made up of both good fish and bad fish. The net symbolizes the Church, and the fish are the members of the Church - you and me. The water symbolizes the world of human history, in which the Church exists and with which the Church interacts. And at the end of history, there will be a judgment. Jesus will "come again to judge the living and the dead," as we pray every week in the Creed. At this judgment, some of the fish in the net will be saved, but others will be thrown back, "into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Both kinds of fish, the "righteous and the wicked," were inside the net, inside the Church.

In other words, it's not enough just to be an official member of the Church, just to say we're Catholic, just to go through the motions of being Catholic on the outside. We need to do that, so that we find ourselves inside the net. But we also need to let God's grace penetrates our minds and change our lives, so that we follow in Christ's footsteps all week long, not just on Sunday morning. Like the farmer and the merchant in the other parables, we have to sell everything in order to take full possession of the treasure and the pearl. We have to actively fight against our selfish, sinful habits in order to enter fully into friendship with Jesus Christ, the only treasure that will fill us with everlasting joy.

It is possible to work in the field without possessing the treasure, and that's exactly what Christ wants us to avoid.

This is an exhilarating truth. 

The judgment only happens at the end, which means that there is always hope, until the very last moment of life, that God's grace can redeem a lost soul. Nothing is predetermined.

Joe, a man now in his 50s, had been a successful businessman. Just over a year ago, he left the business world and put his talents to work for something more substantial. He started working full time for an organization that runs formation activities for lay Catholics. It meant a significant pay cut, but serving Christ more directly was so rewarding that it didn't matter. The one sad point in Joe's life was his dadJerry. Jerry was suffering from cancer, and he had been away from the sacraments for more than 40 years. About a year after Joe's career switch, the phone rang. The doctor told Joe that his dad was dying and had asked to see him. Joe flew down to Florida the same day. He got to the hospital and sat down at his father's bedside, wondering what his dad wanted to talk about, hoping for the best. But Jerry was only interested in some details about his will. They ironed out those details. Joe asked his dad, 'Is that all?" Jerry answered, "That's all." "OK dad," Joe said, "now we're going to pray." And Joe pulled out his rosary beads and started praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy. A nurse saw him and came in to join them. About fifteen minutes later Joe's dad grabbed his son's arm, looked him in the face, and said, "Joe - I need to see a priest." An hour later, after going to confession, Jerry received the Holy Eucharist. A day later his cancer was in remission; soon he went home. Since then he has been receiving Holy Communion daily.

There are good fish and bad fish in the net, but as long as that net is still in the water, there is always hope for the victory of grace.

The parable of the dragnet gives us a good reason to check up on ourselves, to make sure that we are not just going through the motions of being a Catholic.

God will only welcome onto the shores of everlasting life those of us who truly desire to be there, and who show that desire by really trying to follow Christ.

But the parable has another implication as well.

It reminds us that the people around us need our help. Just because our friends and family members appear to have a good relationship with God doesn't mean that they don't need the help of our prayerswords, and good example. Judging only by appearancesall the fish in the net were safe. But in the end, it turned out that appearances were not the whole truth. None of us is immune from temptation. The Bible tells us that the devil is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

The fish right next to us may be going through a difficult time right now, a time of terrible temptation and spiritual battle, whether we can see it or not. And so, we should never stop praying for each other. And we should never stop looking for new ways to encourage each other to stay faithful to Christ. And we should never think that our own example of faithfully following Christ doesn't matter. It always matters.

Jesus wants to bring everyone into the bright light of eternal life.

Today, let's thank him for the gifts of grace he has given us already, and let's promise that we will continue to make good use of them - both for our own sake, and for the sake of those around us.



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